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Advice for young people

It may be hard for you to understand that you or your friends are being sexually exploited. Abusers are good at gaining trust and making someone feel special. They may also have made you believe that you are in a relationship and the situation you are in is normal.

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The relationship could be with a close friend, a group of friends or a partner. It could be a person or a new group of people you've only just got to know. It could be someone you've talked to online.

Relationships should be healthy and you shouldn’t feel forced to do anything because someone has bought you something or because they have said it’s ok.

Take a look at the signs and if you have any concerns, seek help. We fully understand that the police may not be the people you want to talk to because you don’t see yourself as a victim. But officers can help you. You can contact us or report abuse online.

Warning signs

  • They may buy you presents like clothes, a mobile phone, or give you money to buy things. They may offer you drugs and alcohol - a place to chill out or involve you in activities that seem exciting or fun.
  • When they have gained your trust and affection, they may change how they act around you.  Their aim is to draw young people like you into swapping or selling sex. They are not really your friends.Exit the website
  • That person may start to try to find ways of controlling you, such as making promises they can't keep, threatening you, or even becoming violent if you don't do what they want.
  • They might also try and separate you from your friends, family and other people who care for you. When that happens, it's easier for an abuser to put you in dangerous situations or force you to do things you don't want to do with them or other people they know.
  • They will ask for sexual favours for themselves and/or other people, in return for alcohol, drugs, presents, money; all the things they gave you for free a while ago.

Keep safe

  • Trust yourself to know when something is wrong. If someone makes you feel unsafe, pressured, trapped or frightened, follow your instincts straight away.
  • Don't trust people you don't know, even if they seem friendly - and make sure you know who you are talking to online. Never give away personal details or agree to meet someone who you have only talked to online unless you have discussed this first with a parent or carer to ensure any contact is made safely.
  • Don't be tricked into doing things that are unsafe, even if they seem like fun. What might look exciting at first could be more harmful than you realise.
  • Sexual exploitation can happen to you, no matter whether you are a boy or a girl, and no matter what your age or background - so you need to be careful who you trust.  It's not always easy to talk to parents or carers about this, but it is important that you do.

Who can help you?

Talking to the police can be daunting and many young people find it hard to take that step. If you want to speak to a police officer you can report it online or call the police non-emergency number, 101. In an emergency dial 999.

If you feel that you are not ready to take that step but would like to speak to someone there are links below to charities/agencies that can give you advice, support and help you to identify and understand situations you feel are beyond your control.  They will help you to make the right decisions for you.

Useful resources



‘Barnardo’s helped me realise what was happening, and then they helped me escape. The worker helped me mend the broken relationship with my mum and get the whole family back on track.’
Sophie, a young person helped by Barnardo’s.

The Children's Society

The Children's Society

My name is Becky and it all started when I was 13 years old

Watch my video to find out more about my story and how The Children’s Society helped change my life.

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